After work, it’s a long walk to the bus stop. Extra long in the shivering November evening that I am currently sliding into. Probably about fifteen below out here; no wind, thankfully. It’s that time of year that most E-Towners dread – the dark days of winter proper. The weeks leading up to solstice are especially difficult. At this latitude, at this time of year, our once-glorious, never-ending days shrink to barely noticed specs of light. The workday becomes a grudge we carry between a late sunrise and an early sunset. For a short time in late November, the end of my workday coincides almost perfectly with the setting of the sun. During those days, sunsets are the sole natural light that I observe (the light through my east-facing, dirty office window simply doesn’t count). What glory that light is, then.
On approach I see that nobody’s in the shelter t’nite, but then again, I’m out here a bit early. Wanted to catch the sun’s full-burn slip. The guy with the Rusky hat will be along shortly, as will the penciled secretary who wears flimsy, slipper-like flats no matter the weather. I do hope that Stoned Guy shows up. He doesn’t appear too often in the winter, but once in a while he shows his bloodshot eyes. He offered me a sniff back in the summer. Talked slow and low, kinda like John Wayne. I didn’t accept his offer, but ever since then I keep an eye out for the guy so that I can give him The Nod – a gesture that says, “I get it. Take ‘er cool, man.” I step into the plexi shelter even though it offers no real protection from the cold. Someone left a half-empty bottle of orange Gatorade on the floor. I give the bottle a soft kick. Slush. It’ll be solid in an hour. Still got another fifteen or so until the bus shows up. C’mon bus, c’mon. Much to the chagrin of the shivering, homesick after-work crew (who are a completely different cast of characters than those on the morning push), the bastard’s been ten minutes late every day for the past week. Those ten minutes are ratcheted up and remembered over the course of a winter, and everyone expects some sort of divine transit payback.
The dying gray of the day is subverted for an all-to-short moment by rippling yellow on the western horizon. Behind the dirt-caked windows of the shelter, I crack a half-smile and consider raising a toast of half-frozen orange Gatorade to the heatless, shrinking sun – may she rip yellow and hot tomorrow morn. Rusky hat arrives. Secretary arrives. A couple never-seens waddle up with shivering cigarettes and dirty Sorels. I’m silent, just watching. Sun slips a little more. The regulars stand as they have for the two hundred week days before. 149th street breaks everyone’s heart eventually.
Bus Shelter Sunset, Nov 06
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?